“[President] Trump is in every way pursuing the Russian agenda. He’s against NATO. He’s out to destroy the European Union. He’s destroying our alliances and making the United States appear to be unreliable. At home he’s undermining the United States and democracy. There is no ally [Trump] won’t betray and no limit to his treachery.” — Peter Galbraith, October 9, 2019
No American has cared more about the Kurdish people than former ambassador Peter Galbraith.
In the late 1980s, he awakened the world to seeing a genocidal campaign being waged against the Kurds. Iraqi chemical gas attacks took more Kurdish lives than the number America lost on 9/11, and mass executions by Iraq may have killed as many as 180,000 Kurds.
Unlike Galbraith, most of us turned a blind eye. We are instinctively inward-turning, looking at world affairs as “over there,” apart from our everyday lives. What we notice often gets treated with indifference when the victims are people who look different from what most of us do.
The ongoing Syrian Civil War has taken the lives of more than 250,000 and driven more than 11 million from their homes, yet early in 2017, Trump slammed the door on taking in any Syrian refugees.
Last month, a further line was crossed. America became an enabler of vicious pro-autocracy violence in the Middle East, with President Trump announcing on Oct. 6 that we were pulling out of Northern Syria.
The White House, explaining the decision, acknowledged the obvious: “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria.” With the whole world watching, America knowingly set up our Kurdish allies for a slaughter by Turkey.
More than 160,000 Kurds are now reported to be homeless, and, facilitated by Trump’s action, the killing of 277 Kurds has been reported. Lives of evangelical Christians are also at risk, leading even hard-core Trump supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham to voice his rage at this atrocity: “Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump administration.”
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Trump explained the new normal for foreign policy in a capital-letters tweet: “We will only fight where it is to our benefit.” New Defense Secretary Mike Esper elaborated: we will cease protecting the lives of Kurds, but we will keep enough troops in Syria to safeguard oil.
What have we, as America, become? The Greatest Generation sacrificed mightily to defend democracy. Now we act as a rogue nation, tearing up commitments and denying protection to those who share our stated national principles and values.
Turkey’s strongman Recep Erdogan, who like Trump is actively leading a forced march to autocracy, immediately took advantage of Trump’s green light, and launched a military siege against the Kurds.
Also receiving substantial immediate benefit was the alliance of ever-scheming Russian president Vladimir Putin and the murderous Syrian dictator Bashir Assad, whose joint protection the Kurds have now been forced to seek.
Our European policy is also strikingly anti-democracy. At the 2018 G-7 summit, Trump tried to break apart the EU by pushing for separate deals with individual nations. He reluctantly signed a pro-democracy communique, and then took an action astounding in its incredible rudeness and implications. Trump stood up and tossed two candies toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel, sneering: “Here, Angela. Don’t say I never give you anything.”
Merkel, forced now by America’s abdication into being the de facto leader of the free world, declared last November: “The days where we can unconditionally rely on others are gone. That means that we Europeans should take our fate more into our own hands if we want to survive as a European community.
In a final acknowledgment of the anti-democracy violence he had unleashed, Trump announced, without a bit of care or concern, that imprisoned ISIS fighters, released by our Kurdistan abandonment, would now be escaping to Europe, free to launch lethal attacks on innocent people in democratic countries in a continent already badly traumatized by terrorism.
Soldiers do not desert fellow soldiers on the battlefield. A country feeling its compassion does not set up others for slaughter.
Trump has turned friend into foe, and foe into friend. Under vicious siege from President Trump and others, democracies here and around the world are at risk of collapse.
Whatever time Trump has left in office, Congress and the American people have to work together to prevent his nightmarish anti-democracy campaign from achieving victory.
Ron Malzer is a retired psychologist and freelance writer; you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.